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Peters, USC students combine to organize first-of-its-kind event

You may recall someone from your formative years, perhaps a classmate or fellow youth group member, in whom it seemed everyone could confide.

The goal of Natural Helpers, a peer-assistance program used across the United States and in several other countries, is to train students who fit that description to develop their listening and decision-making skills further.

For nearly four decades, the program has been in place at Upper St. Clair High School. And last year, Peters Township joined the effort by establishing a high school Trust Crew.

Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Judith Alexander

Longtime Upper St. Clair Natural Helpers adviser Bill Rullo guided the training at both schools for students who were identified and selected through anonymous surveys. Gifted teacher Judith Alexander is his Peters Township counterpart.

“Last year, we came back and said, ‘What can we do to help create a healthier environment in school?’ We surveyed the kids, and the results of the survey gave us information on what our students are most concerned about,” Alexander said, with the results including stress and anxiety about achieving good grades and choosing the right career path. “The students have come up with a list of ideas of things that they would like to do.”

One of the ideas will be implemented Saturday with the first Walk for Wellbeing and Wellness. The Peters Township Trust Crew and Upper St. Clair Natural Helpers are collaborating to host the event from noon to 4 p.m. at Peters Township High School Stadium.

“We wanted to bring the community together to support individuals who are living with or love someone who is struggling with mental health problems, and also to provide resources and information, as well as healthy options,” Alexander explained.

The intent also is to help remove the stigma associated with people who suffer from the likes of anxiety, depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.

Free to members of the community, the event features a five-kilometer walk along the stadium track. Participants will receive thank-you bags containing materials including materials, strategies and information about local service providers and options.

At 1 p.m. is a presentation by Jordan Corcoran, founder of “Listen, Lucy,” a website that offers an outlet for people to express themselves freely and creatively as a therapeutic measure.

“I have been living with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder for years now, and I have always found that the best release from my internal struggles was to write about it,” she states at http://listenlucy.org/.

Also offered at the Walk for Wellbeing and Wellness are games like musical chairs, tug o’ war and “rowdy relay,” with participants paying a small fee to compete. Proceeds will go to BroglieBox, a quarterly subscription designed to promote optimal mental health and overall wellness by providing items such as essential oils, coloring therapy books, candles, aromatherapy, journals, calendars and self-help guides.

Students at both high schools have assembled gift baskets to be raffled off, along with a pair of ever-popular Pittsburgh Steelers tickets. Food trucks, music and yoga instruction also are part of the festivities.

The day’s experience for the Natural Helpers and Trust Crew students complements the 25-plus hours of training they receive in such areas as becoming more knowledgeable about major problems facing classmates, developing awareness of their limits as helpers and knowing how important it is to take care of themselves.

“Really, it’s empowering students,” Alexander said. “They’re going to learn some skills that will be lifelong skills.”

Lilliput Play homes releases children's book

Lilliput Play Homes has announced it will release of a children’s picture book in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the company’s founding.

“Lilliput: The Big Story of a Little House” chronicles the journey of a young girl and the lifelong connection between her and her backyard playhouse. The story draws inspiration from the real life founding of Lilliput Play Homes, when in 1989, unable to find a playhouse special enough for his daughter, Stephen Chernicky decided to create a beautifully handcrafted playhouse that resembled a Victorian mansion.

Lilliput Play Homes, is celebrating 30 years of providing lifetime memories for children all over the world. In their Finleyville workshop, the Lilliput team builds high quality indoor and outdoor playhouses, and the company has become a leading authority on playhouse design and construction.

The company employs 25 craftsmen, artisans and support staff that create amazing playhouses for families and businesses around the world. The company has been featured in a variety of media including The Oprah Winfrey Show, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. the company’s clients include celebrities and sports figures such as Jennifer Garner, Channing Tatum, Kobe Bryant, Jeff Gordon and Mark Anthony.

Lilliput also specializes in designing and building detailed play environments for businesses all over the world. The company creates themed playhouse villages of fire stations, hospitals, grocery stores that allow children to engage in creative play. The business has created these attractions for play centers, hotels, museums, libraries, child care and early learning centers.

The new children’s book aims to capture that magic. The story unfolds as a father builds a playhouse for his daughter and then watches as a girl journeys through life’s milestones, all within the comforting shadow of her beloved playhouse.

The book was written by Stephen’s daughter, Alyssa Davis, for whom the first Lilliput Play Home was made 30 years ago.

“My playhouse has been part of many memories for me growing up, and even as an adult. Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of my parents’ love and the whimsy of childhood,” Davis said. “I wrote this as a way to thank my parents, and also included a surprise twist to let them know that they were going to be grandparents. The playhouse’s magic will be extending into the next generation.”

The book is available at www.lilliputplayhomes.com and on Amazon. For more information, call Caryn Chernicky at 724-348-7071 or email at caryn@lilliputplayhomes.com.

No need to be friends

Q. My boyfriend broke up with me pretty suddenly and over the phone right after spring semester ended. We haven’t talked over the summer, and now that school started this fall, it’s been pretty awkward. I still have feelings for him and a lot of questions. Since we haven’t talked to each other for about four months, I don’t know how to start talking to him again. I don’t even know if talking to him is a good idea.

After he broke up with me, he said he still wanted to be good friends, and I told him that I honestly didn’t think I could be friends with him. I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do? – Uneasy at University

A. I think you ought to listen to your heart, which seems to be saying that it needs more time to heal. So, be cordial when you run into your ex-boyfriend – wish him all the best – but put your energy into nourishing friendships, interests and your sense of self. One day you might be able to be friends with this ex, but that day is not today. And that is 100% OK.

Dear Annie: I was shocked to read that “Fearing the Future” is so pessimistic at 67. I am 91 and recently wrote the following poem:

“The Optimist”

“Why live to one hundred?” asked my friend.

“Isn’t ninety enough to make a good end?”

“I think of the things I would miss,” I replied,

“If, at ninety, I stopped and simply died.”

Thousands of mornings to see the sun rise

In a glorious blaze in the eastern skies.

Moons to wax and wane anew,

Trillions of stars in the midnight blue.

Ten springs to see the lilacs bloom

As their fragrance drifts across my room.

To see new leaves on the maple tree

As the birds return and sing to me.

Ten summers to feel the ocean breeze

As whales cavort in blue-green seas,

To watch the hawks on the thermals rise

Into the blue of summer skies.

Ten more harvests to celebrate

Of apple and peach and pear and date.

To anticipate the vintner’s wines

From fresh new grapes on ancient vines.

Ten more autumns in which to see

The change of color on every tree,

Russets and golds and reds ablaze

To brighten the ever-shortening days.

Ten winters of freshly fallen snow

On mountains above and valleys below.

Of cherry-cheeked children on skis and sleds,

Of blazing hearths and soft warm beds.

Ten Christmas seasons of church bells rung,

Of mince pies eaten and carols sung.

Of families gathered to celebrate

The wonder of that age-old date.

Ten more New Years to welcome in,

To wonder what the year will bring.

Will there be a new baby for me to see?

A great-grandchild on my family tree?

I strive for another decade of living,

Of hoping and praying and loving and giving.

And, if I reach one hundred, what then?

Why, I’d plan to live to one hundred and ten!

– Beryl in Keizer, Oregon

Dear Beryl: Thank you for lighting the way with optimism. Your poem made my day a little brighter, and I’m sure it will do the same for many readers.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.